Tuesday, March 11, 2014

.Navigating the old way- with a MAP!

Last weekend I had to make a trip to pick up my oldest daughter, who has spent the week with my sister in North Carolina.  The drive took us up I-95 northbound out of Georgia and in to South Carolina, where I intersected interstate 26 to head west/northwest.

The plan was to meet at an exit off I-26 that is about half way mileage and time wise for both of us to drive. On the way up there was an accident about a dozen miles shy of the exit to 26, some sort of three car affair that took nearly half an hour to get past.  The interstate is only two lanes wide in SC and really needs to be three laned in each direction, which is not likely to happen soon.  Traffic south bound, I noted, was very heavy.  Between spring break starting and it being Bike Week in Daytona Beach Florida, lots of traffic headed south. Enough for me to want to try a different route back.

We met at a Hardee's off an exit and "exchanged the prisoner".  I got on I-26 headed east, wanting to find another route south. I pulled a dog eared atlas from the back seat and handed it to Brooke.  (I am sorry if you are a dog, able to read, and find this offensive)

Now, why did I do this, rather than tell her to take her I phone and find us another route? Simple! Last Christmas the family and I were faced with the same dilemma, traffic backed up and trying to find a back route.  The problem with those GPS and nav applications is they all want an ending address.....but they always and I mean always want to put you on the interstate, which was gridlocked and the reason we wanted another route! Then you get frustrated telling it to re route. Guess what else.....they don't work when you loose cell signal, which happens in rural areas.  

I can pull out a paper atlas, look at the WHOLE PICTURE, and see a way out quicker than you can punch the data in on the screen. 

Thus we did. After I told her to open the book and find South Carolina, I pointed to where we were, and told her to find highway 601, which intersected with our direction a few miles down. What do you know, we could take 601, a two laner, all the way across the border into Sylvania, GA which was about 40 minutes from our place on the west side of Savannah, or go just a few miles south on 601 and pick up highway 21 in Orangeburg SC which would take us more east/southeast.

On we went, oh, not moving the potential 75 we would do IF the interstate was clear, but we were moving at 55-60 mph with occasional slowdowns for small towns.  Which is better than 0 to 5 mph with a diesel rig idling on one side of me, and an SUV with a domestic argument going on inside, while their big navigation screen shows a clear, blue road with an arrow pointing in the way they are SLOWLY going!   

I do like my techno devices. I own a smart phone. I have a cool GoPro hi definition camera. I have a small hand held GPS I use for boating, fishing and snowmobiling.  I have used auto nav systems for finding an urban address. But in the country? My folks have had people come to visit, who INSIST on "just give me the address!" when the 'ol man tries to tell them how to get there (3 1/2 miles north on 102!) and they get routed about 12 miles out of the way in a big circle......since GPS units often don't recognize unpaved township roads.

Well I sound like a crotchety old fart in this entry...but so many have no clue where they are without devices. A sense of direction, the ability to find North from South, East from West. read a paper map, come on people! 

OK ranting on.......some years back we had a hurricane evacuation, mind you pre GPS, but none the less, I knew the two lanes leading in and out of the area, while others spent hours on a grid locked interstate. Some of whom I am sure have lived here most of their lives. It amazes me how little some folk know about their own surroundings. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Gator delivery part III- a few days in Minnesota then back home-

  "What's that green thing you brought on the trailer?"  I was asked.  I handed dad the keys, and said this was payback for blowing the engine in his pickup when I was 17.

He looked perplexed, I explained how I had acquired the machine.  I got my plank ramps out, un strapped and unloaded the Gator,  and we took a quick ride around the place as I demonstrated the operation, then he drove.  I think he may have cracked a smile in the process.  We pulled in behind the house and he came in and got mom.

As predicted she proclaimed it "cute" and I took her on a long circuit of the back forty, I caught a giggle now and then and she gripped the dash handle tightly. Mom's got a knee that bothers her some and doesn't get way out on the woods trails like she used to so this was neat.

Dad and I went out and cut up some ash from a tree that had fallen in a storm earlier in the summer -


And off the old settler drives......

When you get back to the wood pile, flip the switch and dump the bed. 

While there, I fixed a few things as I usually do.  The right brake on the 8N Ford dad picked up was soaked in oil from a leaking axle seal, leaking oil on to the brake assembly from the transmission. I had ordered parts ahead of time from Stiener Tractor parts so I had what I needed. 

From what I can tell, this tractor had been a "blue belly" at one time, and the leaking seal was due to being ineptly installed, it was not "square" in the carrier, and they used (re used!) gaskets and about two tubes of nasty black RTV.

I used the Gator as a work bench that day.

It is a very good running tractor, a 1950 model from the serial number and it has a 12 volt electrical conversion.  However, there are a few things I think of as "hackery" done to it. First off, if you are going to "restore" a tractor, at least do some body work! A few hours with some bondo and a ball peen hammer would have gone a long way on the hood, the fenders were painted right over rust pits and are bleeding rust back through all ready.  Then there is the brake issue I had to fix, and I have found a few loose bolts here and there.  Sure, it may look great in this picture but the hood is rough as hell from ten feet away.

I then patched up a roof on the sap shack a bit.  I think a metal roof is in order here in the next couple years.

 The stovepipe coming out the side is from the sap boiler used each spring for maple syrup.

The Central Minnesota Heritage Club was having it's summer show just a couple miles from the house so I went over and took it in.  One thing I really liked was the number of machines in "working clothes", in other words not overly restored. 

This Case "CC" was I believe a 1934 model and originally on steel wheels I would imagine, I saw it run pulling the stone boat with a big water tank on it and folks jumping on as it pulled down the track. It sure sounded sweet lugging down! 

And here is a home added log splitter on an Allis Chalmers "B"  Allis Chalmers was this year's show featured brand.

Shorthorn oxen?  I didn't see them at work though the owners have a little wagon they pull. Docile creatures for sure. 


Lawn mower pullers! The lawn tractor pulls were held Sunday.

Video I took of the threshing machine-

I also dug the '74 model six horse Johnson outboard from the shed, it gets run every few summers on the johnboat dad bought along with it.  When we lived on the other side of the road, my grandmother had a dock on Big Swan lake it was kept at.

I shall also mention that these were probably the two hottest days of the summer, in the high 90's.  That dip I took on a Sunday afternoon after anchoring the boat and jumping over the side sure felt good. :)

Since I had an empty trailer, it had to be loaded! Back in the early 80's, dad bought this wagon running gear from a farm auction for 25 dollars or so.  A tad of research showed it was constructed (quite well so) with a pair of '37-'39 Ford front axles, which were flipped over 180* to raise them (they "smile" in the car but are "unhappy" on the wagon) and the large bolt pattern wheels.

  I had to put air and a valve stem core in ONE tire.  Sure, some were low, but dad figures this thing had not moved in 27 years!

We had a flat bed on this when I was a kid, here is a pic from 1982 baling some hay- the rest of the equipment is long gone but the running gear remains.  The guy on the Minneapolis-Moline RTU tractor is a 15 year old me, the guy on top of the load now owns a successful pool and spa business, the third guy I lost track of. 

Loaded that wagon up along with an old horse drawn walking plow and a better chassis to replace the rusted chassis on a '67 Ski Doo I have.

Monday morning came, and it was time to leave for Georgia again.  I had the load strapped down to the trailer, said my good byes and headed out about 6am on a Monday. I stopped in the town of Grey Eagle, 3 1/2 miles down the road, and checked the straps, and who came walking by but this guy Vance who I recall from school, on his way to get a cup of coffee from the Clark station that was opening up.  We summarized our lives since we last talked in four minutes or less, and I got on the road again!  
Down two lane country roads as dawn became morning and I headed on down I-94 towards Minneapolis.  Baled road ditches anyone?

Below is a load of sweet corn, to compliment the load of tomatoes I got behind in Indiana. I was not pelted with corn this time however. This was after merging to 1-35.

Iowa, here we come.  The roads proved much smoother than the Wisconsin route on the way up.
I'm not sure what this place is- airport?

Several hours later, the "worlds largest truck stop"  which has a separate truck museum that I did NOT go in to due to time.

Here is the base, or part of it, for one of the many giant wind turbines being transported -

Inside the actual truck stop store, which reminds me of a shopping mall, there was this neat Dodge Power Wagon on display.

Things sure have come a long way, neat old truck but I sure would not want to, nor be able to, knock down 850 miles in a day in that iron dog!
Above is a Caterpillar building in Peoria, IL.
I pressed on, making it east to the outskirts of Indianapolis, then south on I-65.  About 12:30 AM and 18 hours since leaving the home place, this guy needed a place to rest. Only the rest area on the big slab was backed up on the the on ramp with big rigs. I pulled in a TA truck stop parking lot in Seymore, IN. 
This time I was not as lucky. Ended up parked between two rigs and it was warmer, more humid out than it was on the overnight in Kentucky on the way up.  I woke up sweaty a couple times and had to start the engine to run the AC and cool off the cab.  With rigs coming and going all the time, GOOD sleep was not possible. 
About 6 hours later I gave up on trying to sleep more, and hit the road.  Here are the lights coming in to Louisville at dawn.

Once in Louisville, I hit I-64 and headed east. This time, instead of bearing south on I-75 at Lexington I continued east/southeast on Combs Mountain Parkway. This took me on a very scenic route, most of which was a divided four lane. At Pikeville, I headed south on US 19-23. At about noon, I pulled in to my inlaw's yard.
I backed the trailer in to a spot and unhooked it, as the wagon and plow were to stay there. Chris was doing better after the ATV roll over but still couldn't really use his arm.

The story pretty much ends here. After unhooking and shooting the breeze with Chris, I headed to Savannah, getting home about 7pm.
I can't find my notes, but the trip back was 330 or so miles longer than the trip up, due to the Iowa route (extra 80 miles) and going home with a detour to Wise, VA to drop the trailer.  
I don't have one of those GPS navigation units and chuckle when I am driving down the interstate, and look over to see a car lower than me (which you can see well while driving a 4x4 truck) and see the screen with the arrow pointing straight ahead! Now I will admit they are nice in a city trying to find a place, but I do just fine with a Rand McNally altas. I have a Garmin E-trex GPS I use basically as a trip meter. It records mileage, time moving and time stopped. It will surprise you just how long those gas stops take!  I snapped this shot close to the VA/TN border, you can see the elevation displayed on the bottom, 3750 ft.  

I also have a small Uniden CB that is powered through a plug to a lighter socket. I use a magnet mount antenna on the front fender. This was handy in the construction traffic I encountered in Illinois. I had a means of finding out what lane was closed up ahead and what the hold up was.    


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Gator Delivery service part II- Jethro hits the open road-

Plans had been made. I picked up my 16' utility trailer from the yard of a friend with a much larger yard than me (he stores it and uses it) and loaded up the aforementioned "Gator".  I took all kinds of hand tools, a hydraulic jack, floor jack, an air compressor and anything else I could think of. Work was slow so getting a Wednesday through Tuesday off was not a problem.

Oil was checked, tire pressures checked.  Kids and wife kissed good bye and last minute instructions left.  After waiting out a downpour, I hopped in the Dodge and was on the way. Actually half a day earlier than intended. 


I was driving from Savannah, GA to near the town of Grey Eagle, Minnesota.  The most direct route takes you right through Atlanta GA and Chicago, IL and I wanted to avoid both.  Thus I did!

Interstate 95 north up the coast to the intersection of I-26, then alllll the way through South Carolina in to western North Carolina, and I-40 thru the smokies.  Here are some pics, not totally in order, but I kept the camera on my lap and just shot through the windshield all the way up. 


Now the tires on the rig were a few years old, yet appeared just fine. Except one had blown out while the trailer was in the use of a friend, who put on the spare.  I replaced the blown one prior to leaving, and put the spare back in the truck bed. I noted some "flat spotted" "thump thump thump" as I headed down the interstate, but figured it would work it's way out.  It sure did, And not in a way I wanted it to...

Yep, the tires had had enough and were rebelling against my plans.

I stopped around twilight at the exit for Newport, Tennessee on I-40 just east of Knoxville, where I could connect with I-75 and head north. 
I jacked it up and put the spare on the worst offender, which was swelled up like a bicycle tire. I let the air down on the other two original tires (one had been replaced prior to leaving) and hoped for the best. It was about 8pm and I had steam left in me, wanted to cover more road before calling it quits for some sleep, but had no tire shop nearby.  I crossed my fingers and got back on the road. I held the speed to about 60 mph in the right lane and pressed on, in to the sunset. 30 minutes later I was connected with I-75 and heading North.  I pressed on, with the WHAP WHAP WHAP going on back behind me. I kept expecting one of them to explode and bend up the trailer fender but it never happened.
I pulled off at a rest area just after connecting with I-64 around Lexington, KY about midnight. I have covered 640 some miles in the 12 1/2 hours since leaving home.
I cracked the rear side windows and the slider in back, hung towels for curtains, used the sunshade as a shade between the front and back seats and lay down in back with my duffle bag as a pillow. The temps were in the mid 70's and there was a bit of a breeze so it wasn't bad. Not totally dark, there are always lights but I got away from them as much as I could.
Sure, could I have gotten a nice room at a motel 6?  Well that would have taken an extra 40 minutes I figure between checking in and out, finding a place to park the rig as most hotels don't have long spaces. Then I'd either be up half the night worried the Gator was stolen off the trailer (a friend had his rig with a drag racing buggy and ATV on it stolen right out of a hotel parking lot) or I'd sleep so well I'd oversleep and not get on the road early.    
I was up at 7am, found the vending machine with the coffee was broken, splashed some water on my face, and prepared to leave. I spoke with a trucker getting out of his truck who told me the next exit up had lots of places and possibly a tire shop.
Frankfort, TN had what I needed. Tire Discounters! I pulled in about 7:30 and noted the sign said they opened at 8am. I was about to leave when the manager pulled in, unlocked the door and to come on in while he made coffee. He booted up the computer and sure enough, they had three 225/75/15 trailer tires in stock.  I backed the trailer around back.
I headed over to the Waffle House across the street for a grease and carbohydrate fix.

Should have gotten bacon instead of country ham. I forgot how indelibly salty it is.  
After cleaning my plate and over tipping the wait staff (very friendly and good service) walked over to the convenience store next door and got myself some road supplies, a few apples, granola bars and a bag of ice for the cooler I kept on "the hump" of the back seat reachable while driving.
When I got back to the tire store, this young man had gotten my tires changed, and checked the air in all my truck tires to boot. It was like pulling teeth to get him to take a 20 dollar tip!
 And on I went.  I-64 to Lousiville, KY, then north on I-65 towards Indianapolis, Indiana.  I got pelted with tomatoes just shy of Indianapolis. Well, not pelted, but they were rolling off on the  bumps. At least I figure they were tomatoes, looked like Romas.
Approaching the south side of Indy, about to exit and go west towards I-74 and Illinois-
Here are some random shots from the road. The crops looked great, last year there was a major drought and everything was brown according to locals.  I noted the style of barns in Illinois differs from the barns I am accustomed to in Minnesota. They have a copula on the roof that is unique, not seen this before. Look closely at the barn pics. 
Travelin' tunes-

On I-74 in eastern Illinois, they were doing construction and I spent miles and miles of one lane stop and go, I snapped a shot of these classics and street rods headed the other way-


The truck kept rolling along, with the new tires it was smooth at 75, I never had reason to go any faster than that. And many times slower due to the construction work.  I avoid taking long stops and eating big meals, opting to snack along the way. I keep the cooler mentioned earlier with ice and water in it, keep some fruit and granola bars to munch on. I would get a quick burger when stopping for fuel but not each too much. 

Every 300 miles like clockwork we needed a fill. The tank is 26 gallons per the manual, and when on dead "E" on the needle I get 23 gallons in it. I checked the MPG with a calculator each fill up, and got between 11.5 (mountains) and 14.2 (flatlands in IL with lots of 25-45 mph contruction) which I think is decent considering a 5780lb truck ('03 4x4 Dodge with 5.7 Hemi and 3.91 gears) towing a trailer which I guess to be 2100 lbs loaded, and having a couple hundred pounds of tools and stuff in the truck's bed. 

Once in Bloomington/Normal IL, I hit I-39 north towards Wisconsin.  I crossed the border about 5pm, paid the only toll of the trip, I think a buck eighty.

On I went, north then west as I had been since leaving the low country of the Georgia coast the day before. Man, the badger state interstate was rough! The cracks in the pavement were just at the right spacing to get a jerking, bucking motion going with the truck and trailer.  Then and there I determined I would make the trip home via Iowa!

The sun set, I was about four hours from home. I was tired, but not dangerously tired. I had a phone call with dad and determined I'd be there about 12:30 AM or so.  I hit Minneapolis-St Paul at 11pm, and went right through it with no problem. I was going to use the expression "without a hitch" but that would imply I'd lost my load...

 Pressing on I kept getting closer. Familiar exits from growing up there. I turned off the AC as it was cool, down south it does not cool down at night in July or August, but here it was very nice. The smells of the lakes and farms came in. The wind kept me alert. The throb of the Hemi was glorious music with the trans kicked out of overdrive, pulling up hills with the chambered aluminum muffler it has dumped in front of the rear axle. It's loud, but not too loud. Just enough to let you know it's workin'.

I came through Grey Eagle, the town I grew up in, then on home 3 1/2 miles north on county 102. I pulled in the drive, 12:48 AM central time, a total of 1532 miles and 24 hrs 45 min since departing the west side of Savannah.  892 miles. I'd gotten on the road at 9am after the tire ordeal in Kentucky. I'd "lost" an hour crossing in to central time from eastern, but it's moot as I'd gain that back en route home.  Basically I'd driven just short of 16 hours that day.

I got in the house and dad met me at the door with a bottle of Cap't Morgan rum and asked if I "wanted a bump" Hell yes I did! Even after a stiff rum'n coke and a much needed shower I still did not go to sleep right away, just buzzed from staying awake I guess.

Stay tuned for PART III!